HARRISON... the insistence of paying the teachers in an atmosphere of haste has resulted in several teachers from then not receiving their fair due

THE Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) was the only union present on Monday at what was advertised as a joint press conference of unions to state their position on the Government's compensation review.

Representatives of the Jamaica Police Federation and the National Workers Union of Jamaica, who were invited to join the JTA at its headquarters on Church Street in downtown Kingston, did not show up.

When asked by the media about their absence, JTA President La Sonja Harrison explained that the police representative said two members had been injured in an accident and so he was dealing with that matter; and General Secretary of the National Workers Union Granville Valentine said that he had another pressing issue but would make every effort to be there.

It was also noticeable that the JTA's secretary general and president-elect were absent. Harrison said the latter asked that she "apologise profusely. He had an engagement at school that he could not divorce himself from"; while the secretary general is on vacation leave.

Harrison, however, was not daunted by the lack of support, and used the conference to demand that the Government immediately address anomalies/outstanding issues arising from the compensation restructuring exercise relating to teachers.

"The Government of Jamaica [needs to] respond, not tomorrow, not next week, not when they feel like, but the Government of Jamaica [needs to] respond immediately to the teachers' plight if at all we want to safeguard the education system and to maintain its quality, and seek to improve thereupon because the working condition of the teacher is the learning condition of the student. Do we want demotivated individuals going into our classrooms every day before your children?" she said.She further argued that the restructuring exercise undertaken by the Government of Jamaica has had a negative impact on the emotional, mental and financial well-being of teachers, and has particularly impacted senior teachers with 20, 25, 30, 40 years of service, the regular classroom teacher, as well as those serving with the post of special responsibility, and vice-principals.

"Haste, they say, makes waste. The Government of Jamaica claimed it had to make payments prior to March 31, 2023. All teachers were not paid prior to or by that date. This was not the position employed for all public sector groupings. With the moving goal post re: payment of teachers' salaries announced by the Ministry of Education and Youth, there was a call for us to be paid our regular salaries, and retroactive sums be paid by a supplementary pay cycle. The narrative persisted why that could not be. The insistence of paying the teachers in an atmosphere of haste has resulted in several teachers from then not receiving their fair due — be it small or great," she said.

Further, Harrison said several discrepancies and anomalies surfaced from the first payment received in March/early April for some individuals, and yet, there were those teachers who went on Easter break not having received salaries.

Harrison said the union anticipated that the discrepancies would have been dealt with through the payment that would come in April 2023, but that did not materialise, noting that prior to this she had continued to raise the concerns, call for recalculations and established a technical committee to deal with the many anomalies.

"Our public calls have fallen on deaf ears, and subsequently, we wrote the Ministry of Finance and Public Service on 18th of April, 2023 [highlighting the] anomalies arising from the MoU concluded between the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaica Teachers' Association, March 13 2023.

Harrison said in that letter, the JTA requested an urgent meeting with the finance ministry to establish a technical committee to deal with the anomalies, but there was no response.

She said the education and youth ministry subsequently made contact and a meeting had been arranged, where all the anomalies and discrepancies were noted and the JTA directed to write another letter to the finance ministry — done May 17, 2023 — outlining outstanding matters regarding the compensation review.

To date, there has been no response.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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